I saw Behind the Candelabra some time ago when it came at the cinemas in the UK and I thought it was a brilliant film about an amazing and flamboyant man. I believe that the film was not released in the U.S at cinema screens and was only played on television. It is a remarkable story about a man who performed amazing feats on a piano and loved to entertain his adoring fans with amazing costumes and flamboyant entrances. Sadly one thing that he could not reveal was the fact that he was gay despite it being very obvious to those close to him. His fear was that his career would be over if the truth came out. This was the same for many actors and actresses who were often set up in marriages and relationships to cover up their homosexuality. Actors like Rock Hudson married so that his sexuality wasn’t revealed. This not only ruined the lives of those trying to cover it up but also those that were marrying them. It also caused there to be rumours around Hollywood surmising who was gay and who was not. Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were rumoured to be in same sex relationships or at least having flings. The whole story of their long affair was apparently a rouge to cover up their homosexuality. There are others like Cary Grant and Randolph Scott? Cant two men not live together without being gay? Others include Joan Crawford, James Dean, Larna Turner, Alec Guiness, Lawrence Olivier, Vincent price and Dennis Price. Some lived horrific lives because of the way society treated homosexual people. Dennis Price and Montgomery Clift drank themselves to death maybe because of the way they were made to feel. Jodie Foster took a long time to come out, so maybe Hollywood is still homophobic? The best kind of society would be one where your sexuality is personal to you and shouldn’t be judged. Surely gay people should not have to come out and their relationships should be accepted without question or intrigue?
Liberace covered up his homosexuality up until his death at least publicly anyway, but of course there were always strong rumours. He even sued the English press and won the case to prove he wasn’t gay. Their were also cover up relationships and even in his book he replaced the relationships he had with men and made them into ones he was having with women. This is the sad part of the story and I think he was imprisoned by fame, but was addicted to it at the same time. The film covers a short period of his life when he was in a relationship with a troubled young man called Scott Thorson. They have a very tempestuous relationship full of jealousy, drugs, deaths, anger and control. There is a fear of getting old leading to slimming pills, wigs and plastic surgery, everything was done for his fans. This was then pushed onto Scott in what became a very controlling relationship. The film ends in the 80’s during the aids explosion when sadly Liberace falls to the fate of the terrible disease. This is definitely a film worth watching and is dealt with in sensitive way but without holding anything back.
The performances from both Michael Douglass and Matt Damon were brilliant. I have never been a fan of Michael Douglass’ work and believe that his father is a far superior actor. This performance surprised me and I read that the idea for a film on Liberace had been in the offing for many years with Michael Douglass in mind for the main role, The imitation of Liberace had been a party piece of \Michaels for a while and he wasn’t shy in performing it in front of Soderbergh the director. To play Liberace takes some doing and Michael had to really reveal himself in not the most flattering ways. He had a paunch, a wig covering a bald head and had to take part in many sex scenes which at his age takes some courage. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable revealing so much of myself. The thing about playing |Liberace is the fact they you can let yourself go and can never be too over the top.
Matt Damon maybe had the harder task as he had to take on a Bi-Sexual character and handlle it in a sensitive way. He had to show subtlety and not go to over the top to make himself a believable character despite all the ridiculous make up depicting a young man having had plastic surgery. He also had to play a part of a guy that went from being overweight to having a muscular physique. I’m not sure if this was done by gaining wait or using padding. It is a great performance worthy of the awards that both of them won and a very entertaining and sad story delving into the depths of a relationship and the characters flaws and insecurities. There is also an extremely funny turn performed by Rob Lowe as the plastic surgeon who makes us laugh with his permanently fixed face. There is also the funny moments when Liberace sleeps with his eyes open because he can no longer close his eyelids, but of course looking twenty years younger has it’s drawbacks. This made my partner laugh as apparently I also sleep with my eyes open without having had surgery.
This is great film to watch and don’t think you need to know Liberace as I knew nothing about him before the curtains rolled back. It is hugely entertaining and has everything from love, to shocks, sadness and also makes you laugh. There are plenty of cringe worthy moments and plenty of sex scenes and male nudity, but this is not too distasteful or shocking. This is Liberace’s life and character on the big screen.